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Ginger Baker: Wheels of Ire

A transgressive new documentary profiles the unruly drummer

Ginger Baker at home in South Africa, 2011. Photo courtesy Insurgent Media, Animations in Film
Ginger Baker

If an artist’s output is supposed to be a reflection of his persona, do we have to love the man along with his work? If his creativity springs from some suppressed suffering, are we free to study the effects of that pain from a place of analytical detachment, like it’s just another window into his genius? Or is that cruel?

If so, the cruelty runs both ways in Beware of Mr. Baker, a scrutinizing and evocative new documentary on the drummer Ginger Baker, known primarily for his work with Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce in Cream. It won the grand jury prize for best documentary feature at the 2012 South by Southwest film festival, and has been showing in select theaters across the country since January. (It comes out on DVD in May.) The director, Jay Bulger, a 30-year-old first-time filmmaker, made the wise decision to frame the movie around his own relationship with Baker. As we puzzle over the halting bond being forged between eager documentarian and acrid subject, Baker seems unable to interact without hailing expletives and denouncements.

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